Speaking of Dogs: Entertainment for the Stay-at-Home Dog

Dogs are social, curious animals that do not handle boredom and isolation well. When left to their own devices, unemployed, under-exercised dogs will find something to do. Guaranteed.  Sadly, a dog’s interpretations of fabulous options for entertainment are usually annoying or dangerous: excavation of the yard, the art of escape, recreational barking, and recreational chewing are typical pursuits of the bored pet dog.

It doesn’t have to be that way; with a little planning and creativity, you and your best friend will remain friends for a very long time.

  • The “Feed the Ducks” technique. Instead of plopping Sasha’s entire meal down in front of her all at once, take the bowl outside and scatter her kibble all over the backyard, as if you were feeding ducks. We do this with Betty, our high-drive pointer and it takes her 45 minutes per meal to “hunt” down every last piece of kibble. Betty has been bred to hunt and every fiber in her body is programmed to do just that. As a bonus, she loves to eat. Ta-da! Two primary motivators in one game. When she’s done ferreting out each morsel from the grass, Betty takes a nap, which of course, is very rewarding for us.
  • The “Work to Repast” technique.  There are several interactive toys on the market that can be stuffed with food. Toys like the Buster Cube and Kong Wobbler dispense a few pieces of kibble with each bat of a paw. Check out www.kongcompany.com  for an array of toys that can be easily stuffed with food.
  • The “Safari.” Stuff five or more interactive toys with Buddy’s meal and hide them around the yard. Think of the fun he’ll have searching for each toy, settling down to clean it out, then tracking down the next installment. Vary the hiding places each day to keep the game interesting. Kong toys are dishwasher safe – no need to worry if food particles are stuck inside.
  • Games. If your dog is motivated by play or attention, try livening things up with games. It doesn’t take much time to play Hide and Seek, Find Your Favorite Toy, or Fetch to exercise a dog’s brain and body. I suggest reserving one or two very special toys that Buddy only sees during these games. I once had a dog who would practically do handstands for an opportunity to play with his “training squeaky.”

Tricks.  Take a few moments each day to teach your dog tricks. Rollover, play possum, balance a biscuit on the nose, and crawl are just a few tricks that can be taught fairly quickly. I love teaching tricks because there’s no pressure to succeed. After all, we’re just having fun…everyone can relax and enjoy the process. Dogs love learning tricks because humans are so charmed by even marginal success. Imagine if we were as excited each time our dogs performed “sit” or “come” as we are when they “shake hands” or “high five.”

Carla Jackson is a professional pet dog trainer and owner of Jackson Ranch for Dogs, a kennel-free boarding and training facility. She specializes in private training, behavior consultations, puppy socialization and day training. You can find Jackson Ranch on Facebook, visit the website, or call (530)365-3800.

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Carla Jackson
Carla Jackson is a professional pet dog trainer and owner of Jackson Ranch for Dogs, a kennel-free boarding and training facility. She specializes in private training, behavior consultations, puppy socialization and day training. You can find Jackson Ranch on Facebook, visit the Jackson Ranch website, or call (530)365-3800.
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6 Responses

  1. Avatar jacki g says:

    Great ideas, Carla! Do you know anything about 'Treiball' or pushball for herding dogs?

  2. Avatar Michelle says:

    At our house we call the "Feed the ducks" technique the "treasure hunt." We have four dogs, two of which lost their eyes due to a disease. Being Jack Russell's they too love to hunt and run to the grass every morning eagerly waiting the toss. All the dogs get in on it and nobody fights or snaps because they are so busy sniffing.

  3. Avatar Ginny says:

    That might help stop Nathan from eating twigs and bark! Thanks!!!

  4. Avatar Victoria Bernet says:

    Carla… you nailed it!!!! Thanks. We have two family members Rosie and Pepper (Lab and Border Collie) who will benefit greatly from the "hunt and peck" method of eating their meal. I love it, they have a lot of ground to cover for meal time when we are too wimpy to take them for a swim at Whiskeytown.

  5. Avatar Mclisa says:

    Jackie, myself and a few others are interested in treibball and would love to get together, drop me a line (any others are welcome as well):

    Lisa

    entropyacres@gmail.com

  6. Avatar Cheryl McMillan says:

    As always, lots of useful and doable information. A busy dog is a…….busy dog! Always a good thing.